“The Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes,” by Williams Rawlings

William Rawlings

Reviewed by Donna Meredith

The Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes, by William Rawlings, would be a great read if only because it presents a richly layered mystery and a wronged protagonist deserving of much more than the world has handed him. But the novel is so much more than that.

Rawlings took the historic Savannah setting of John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, suspense of John Grisham’s The Firm, degenerate families of William Faulkner’s novels, and a dash of Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Alon art world. Rawlings whisked them together and created a literary suspense novel worth anyone’s time.

Kaleidoscope’s gorgeous cover, with its forlorn statue framed by Spanish moss dripping from live oaks, evokes the same gothic tone as Berendt’s iconic cover. Something about the Deep South with its live oaks and Spanish moss suggests deep, dark secrets—and Kaleidoscope plumbs those hidden depths admirably.

In the prologue, ex-con John O’Toole is hauled out of bed and arrested in connection with the disappearance of Lucy Deign. Then the story flashes backward by three weeks to show us how he got himself in this predicament.

Initially, readers aren’t sure whether to feel sympathy for O’Toole. Especially after learning he served time for felony homicide. He soon wins us over when we learn his crime was vehicular homicide and he wasn’t really to blame for the accident. Disbarred after his conviction, the former lawyer serves two years in prison. He now runs a struggling art gallery he inherited from his grandmother.

He is approached by a wealthy philanthropist who wants him to locate a missing painting—and the granddaughter he believes took it. With a gallery on the verge of bankruptcy, O’Toole can’t turn down the chance to earn the substantial financial reward offered for the painting’s recovery. It appears to be such a straightforward job. O’Toole has no inkling of the complications and twists that await him as he tracks down the missing granddaughter. Lies and hidden motives lead to murders and incarceration.

O’Toole has several allies, including his gallery’s bookkeeper, a girlfriend, and—surprising even him—his former parole officer. But it’s the unknown people behind the curtain who hire Savannah’s best attorney for him and post his million dollar bond who worry him. Who are they? Why are they helping him? And even more to the point, why is someone trying to frame him in the first place?

Unraveling the complicated twists and turns is pure hell for O’Toole; pure pleasure for the reader. Rawlings’s beautifully rendered prose never gets in the way of the plot, which surges forward relentlessly toward a satisfying conclusion.

Rawlings is the author of six novels set in Georgia and four nonfiction works of Southern history. Educated at Emory, Tulane, and Johns Hopkins, he lives on the family farm in Sandersville, Georgia.

Click here to purchase this book:

Leave a Reply